The Secret to Writing


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For hours I read the descriptions for writing classes. I look at UCLA Extension classes. I look at Gotham Writing Workshop. I look at the offerings of the non-profit writing organization in my city. I spend hours searching for online writing classes and writing groups in my area. I attend as many writing workshops as I can afford. I am searching. I am looking for discipline. I am looking for a magic pill or bullet that will keep me in my chair every day writing essays, prose poems, blog posts, articles. There must be a trick to being productive. It doesn’t help that on Facebook I am friends with a wide network of writers. Those writers report their daily word count: 2500, 3000, sometimes more. I feel inadequate. I feel like a failure. I hire a writing coach.

I have to accept that I am looking for shortcuts. I am looking for a guru with the answers to being a writer, but no such guru exists. The only true guru would tell me this one word, “write.”  That’s it. I realize today as I am typing this that my problem is not that I need one more class, another critique, the input of one more teacher, assignments, encouragement, one more syllabus, or to participate in another workshop.

I need to sit down and do the work. I need to open a document and begin to type. I have been looking for something magical or mystical, some easy way out. There is no easy way out. It is just me, my thoughts, my hopes, my dreams, my words on a page that I either send into the world, or I don’t.

The time of reckoning is here: I either want to be a writer or I don’t. I either take this lonely step, or I give it up altogether. I think of all the money I have spent on advice. I think of all the time I have spent in classes. I think of how I was searching for someone to do the work for me. It doesn’t work that way. I need the determination. I need the motivation. I need to sit down and get down to business, the business of putting words on a page.

I have always believed that everyone has a book inside of them. I frequently meet people who tell me they are going to write theirs. I wish them well, I do, but this business of putting ideas on the page every day is not for everyone. It is both a pleasure and hard work. The words don’t always flow. The ideas don’t always make sense when you try to type them out. Not every piece is artistic or amazing.

I lost the ability to write for many years because I couldn’t focus while on my medication. I never want to lose that ability again. I don’t take this gift of time and the gift of desire for granted, but I have been looking for shortcuts and the path that has already been cleared for a few years now. It’s time to take out my machete, and start hacking away at the obstacles. No one can do it for me. I’m out in the jungle and the options are, move forward or stand still and perish without water.

I sat in my chair today, and I wrote. I wrote these words. I cleared the path a little bit. I took a step forward. Tomorrow, I hope I can make a little more progress, and after that, a few steps into the jungle each day.

It is work this writing, and although it is the best life I can imagine, I need to stop searching. If you want to write a book or make a living as a writer, you can pack your bags and begin to search for the best way to do that. But when you return home, you will find your computer waiting, and if you are lucky, there will be a sticky note on it that says that one word, “write.” And you will discover that you already had everything you needed before you left on your journey. That’s it. That’s all there is to it, “write.”

It’s so much harder than it sounds, you’ll break a sweat again and again, but that’s the secret, and it’s up to you to somehow find a way to turn it into magic one word at a time.



My Latest Essay on Drunken Boat


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I hope you will read my latest essay on Drunken Boat. It is about “Outsider Art.”  I think those of you who have any connection to mental illness will find the essay interesting. If you do read it, please let me know what you think of my opinion of “Outsider Art.”

Learning Not to Make Assumptions Especially Regarding Dis/ability


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When I had my job downtown, and I used to take the bus or walk to work, I regularly encountered my city’s growing population of homeless people. Many of the people I walked past asked me for money. I occasionally give money to homeless people, but I prefer to buy them a meal. With this preference in mind, I went grocery shopping and bought bread, peanut butter, and grape jelly. That night before going to bed, I made eight to ten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I carefully packed them all back into the bread sack and took the sack with me on my way to work the next day.

I offered a sandwich to every person I saw asking for money on the street. Not one person took the sandwich. (I ended up giving them away to my coworkers). I learned a few lessons that day that extends to other areas of life and people. The most import lesson was, don’t assume you know what other people want or need.

It is possible that every person I encountered that day had already had breakfast at one of the local shelters, or even at Starbucks or a convenience store. It is also possible that some of the people I offered sandwiches to had schizophrenia and like me don’t trust taking food from other people. It is possible that living on the streets as a vulnerable person, they have learned that not all people wish them well (we have had many beatings and even murders of homeless people in the last year). There are many reasons for not taking a sandwich from a stranger. I can’t possibly think of all of them, and it is possible that each person had a different reason.

Not assuming what other people want or need extends to all the people and relationships in our lives, but especially to those living with a dis/ability. People often think that they know what is best for someone with a dis/ability or what that person would want or need. These assumptions are where well-meaning people frequently give advice about nutritional supplements, exercise, spiritual practices, etc. believing that if the person with a dis/ability would just do something differently, their dis/ability may be more manageable or may be “cured.” This advice, unless asked for, is mostly unwanted, belittling and at times degrading and damaging.

I don’t believe that any nutritional supplement or any diet, vegan or otherwise will clear up my schizophrenia. I also don’t believe that God is somehow punishing me, and if I just prayed more, or prayed the right way or put the Bible on my head and did a jig that God would heal me. I most certainly don’t think demons possess me.

If someone asks for your advice about diet, exercise, spirituality then that person is open to suggestions and ideas about those things. If someone doesn’t ask, it is possible they are already getting the best treatment available to them, and those types of comments will come as an insult even though they were not intended that way.

When someone says, “If you went completely vegan and gluten free, your symptoms would clear up,” those of us with a dis/ability hear, “You don’t know your illness. You don’t know your body. Your doctors (even if they have been working with you for years) don’t know as much as I do. You aren’t doing everything you can to be “well.””

When you have an illness and are open about it, people will say all kinds of well-meaning things that don’t land on our ears or heart or mind in well-meaning ways. The most harmful thing that people say to me and someone says it every few months is “You don’t have a mental illness. You are full of demons.” What I hear when someone says that is, “God doesn’t love you.”

Saying a person with schizophrenia has demons is particularly cruel because we frequently experience delusions and hallucinations that have to do with God or religion. After those episodes are over, if we still want to practice our faith, we have to figure out by ourselves how to get back to a sort of mainstream Christian belief system (or whatever religion that person practices – I am Christian and have only heard this from Christians). If schizophrenia was caused by demons and not an illness why wouldn’t more people struggle with it, and as I always ask, why would medication be able to chase demons away?  Are demons opposed to living in someone who takes anti-psychotics?

I don’t assume I know what life is like in a wheelchair. I don’t assume I know what life is like with MS. I need to ask people who have a dis/ability that is different than mine questions and not hit them with answers. Hitting someone with a dis/ability with an answer before you know their circumstances, symptoms, struggles, is giving them one more thing to feel misunderstood, isolated, angry, or other negative thoughts and/or emotions.

My life is good, and so are many other people’s with dis/abilities, but like everyone else, we don’t need one more thing to drag us down. I try not to be a weight to others, let’s all try it together and maybe all of our struggles will seem lighter as we enlighten each other about the thing we know best – ourselves.

My First Literary Essay (not about schizophrenia)


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If you have been following me for a while you will know that I have been trying to break out of mental health writing. Don’t get me wrong, I love mental health writing and all the positive things it can do by educating, raising awareness and saving lives. I love that stuff, but I have always wanted to be a writer. Just that, a writer. Not a woman with schizophrenia that writes.  Please read my latest essay on Angels Flight literary west. It is about death, David Bowie, and how we mourn our losses.  The title is The Extraordinary Ordinary Death.    I hope you will read it and share it.  It looks like I have made it to the title of, writer. I also have schizophrenia and will always write about that, but today, I am celebrating being an artist among other artists – disability or not.

Interview with the Artist, Richard McLean


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I have a new essay, Bright Lights and Dark Corners: Images and Words.  It is an interview with the artist, Richard McLean. Richard is a writer and visual artist. He also happens to suffer from schizophrenia. I think you will enjoy his work.

A Project for People with Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder


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Last week I was contacted by Dr. Tracy McDonough from The Schizophrenia Oral History Project (TSOHP). She wanted to know if I was willing to tell my life story. She told me that I could talk about my illness, or I could talk about anything I wanted people to know about me. The interviews are then posted on their website for other people to hear. I agreed to do the interview.

The call (recorded) lasted for just over an hour. Tracy asked me very few questions (just to keep me talking) and told me before we started that I didn’t have to answer any of the questions I didn’t feel comfortable answering. During the whole process, Tracy was respectful and sensitive.

Of course, I started the interview out with, “I am someone’s baby.” I did this so everyone who listens to the recording would know I came into the world the same way they did – we all have a similar beginning. Isn’t it important to recognize each other’s humanity above all?

If you are interested in being a part of the project, you can find out more at their Facebook page, or on their website.

If you do end up contacting them, please let them know that you heard about their work from Rebecca. If you have schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, I hope you will consider participating in the project. Our stories, our real life experiences, our ups and downs and all around are what help to combat the stigma. As I so often say, “We are more like you than different.” It is an important message and one I hope you will share with others about your life.




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